Mina is impressive, from every perspective. When you enter it with the bus, the endless lines of tents is slightly confusing and disorienting. When you realize it’s a city that grows from zero to 2.5 million inhabitants within 24 hours, it’s dazzling. But when your tent is near the edge – like my tent – and you climb a few meters up onto the rocks, the sight of Mina is amazing.
When it comes to the perspective of Hajj as a journey, Mina means you’ve reached halfway.
When you leave the comfort and privacy of your home and travel to Saudi Arabia, you end up with multiple people in a hotel room; you share your shower with maybe 3 or 4 others. The bed is not as good as your own bed, but good enough.
But when you go to Mina, you share a tent with at least 20 others, sleeping on the carpet, sharing sanitary with a few hundred others.
As the challenge slowly becomes more difficult, Mina allows you to adapt to what’s coming. I know I will have to leave for Arafat tomorrow, where I will share a tent with hundred other brothers, but without the air-conditioning. After that, I will sleep at Muzdalifah, without any tent whatsoever, with thousands others around me.
I’ve left most of my belongings at home in the Netherlands and some belongings in the hotel in Makkah. Tomorrow I will leave some belongings here in Mina and only travel with drinking water and means to sleep. Step by step, I leave all materialistic matters and privacy behind me until I sleep outside underneath the clear sky. To return to God is to return to oneself. Everything that ties you down in this world slowly disappears. Your choices and strength of belief surface. It is a learning experience.
It is hard to believe we are in the country for over three weeks now. At first, I can’t even clearly remember the way I left. I don’t suffer from amnesia, but Saudi Arabia as a hajj (pilgrim) is so different from my everyday life that it’s difficult to connect the two.
I have adopted a new rhythm where my day is not spilt into ‘work’, ‘leisure’ and ‘sleep’ but in segments from prayer to prayer. It is great to be in a country where you can hear the adhan (call to prayer), where everything suddenly stops for prayer, where you can walk to the mosque by foot, where you pray in congregation five times a day. Back home I have a prayer-room in my house and in the office and a prayer-alarm on my Smartphone, but it’s still not the same.
However, I know that Islam means I will have to walk the middle path, to be justly balanced. As much as I enjoy being here, I cannot remain as if Hajj takes months or even years to complete. I need to pack my bags and return home.
Even though I am physically tired, I feel full of energy. Some people don’t start to prepare for Hajj because they don’t feel their iman (belief) is strong enough. However, there is no place on earth that will boost your faith like Makkah and no time on earth like Hajj. I am involved in the dawah back home and cannot wait to write new lectures, articles, presentations.
As much as I will miss Makkah, I know I love to go home. I miss the clouds in the sky, I miss the birds, I miss driving my own car. The more I travel around the world, the more I realize I am just a kid from the Netherlands. I have become a Muslim, but I did not become an Arab. I’m Dutch and home is where I belong. But I plan to return to Makkah, soon, I hope.
May Allah Almighty accept the Hajj of all that have come or will come to seek His contentment.